Hydrotherapy – The Power of Water

Listening to speakers as passionate about their subject as Sue and Sara made participating in last week’s webinar on hydrotherapy a real pleasure.

Sue Hawkins founded Hawksmoor hydrotherapy in Warwickshire and works alongside long-term colleague Sara Marlow, a qualified vet nurse. Being new to the world of webinar speakers, both Sue and Sara confessed to being understandably nervous, but you really wouldn’t have known it, they did a fantastic job.

Initial discussions centred around the benefits that hydrotherapy bring to our patients. We all know the instant relaxation we feel when sinking into a hot bath after over doing exercise. This experience is based on the water buoyancy creating a weightless environment which in turn helps to relieve pain, swelling and stiffness.

This is also the case for many of our patients and, according to Sue and Sara, on entering the water their relief  is clearly visible. Other benefits include improving joint mobilisation, increasing range of movement, strengthening and maintaining muscle mass and improving circulation and cardiovascular fitness.

There are a large number of conditions that would benefit from hydrotherapy, ranging from hip dysplasia to obesity. Many of these conditions are discussed within the webinar and I would highly recommend logging in to learn more.

At this stage the speakers were keen to stress the importance of hydrotherapy centres only seeing patients that have come from a veterinary referral. When vets are referring they should always ensure that hydrotherapy centres are registered with the CHA (Canine Hydrotherapy Centre) and NARCH (The National Association of Registered Canine Hydrotherapists). All hydrotherapists should have the relevant qualifications, and the water quality at these centres should be monitored closely. As the water quality is so crucial to the health of our patients, checks should take place three times a day ideally using a photometer, and records should be always be maintained.

Free swimming and the aquatic treadmill are two forms of hydrotherapy available for our patients. Often both forms of therapy are used in conjunction with each other. Free swimming allows maximum flexion and extension of joints and patients will always be swum in a figure of eight pattern. A hoist can also be used but is often reserved for spinal injuries where exceptional control is required.

The aquatic treadmill allows specific joints to be easily targeted by adjusting the water levels within the treadmill. For example the hip joint can be targeted by adjusting the water levels to hip height. However the aim of the treadmill is not for our patients to swim so the water level may need to be adjusted to prevent this from happening. As an improvement is seen within our patients the water level can be reduced and the speed increased. The aquatic treadmill is also useful for hydrophobic dogs and for patients suffering from heart and lung disease where submersion of the chest is contraindicated.

A number of videos were shown to us during the webinar and if you thought our canine friends were the only likely candidates for hydrotherapy then you are wrong. We were shown skunks (yes, skunks) and other perhaps less likely candidates for hydrotherapy included cats and iguanas.

This webinar has made me really re-think the cases that would benefit from hydrotherapy and has given me the knowledge to discuss all aspects of hydrotherapy and inspire that all important confidence into my clients, allowing them to make the best choices for their pet. Sue and Sara, once again, thank you for doing such a great job!

The Stethoscope (MRCVS)

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